NEWBERRY — Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss. To celebrate Theodor Seuss Giesel’s 110th birthday, which was Sunday, students today and children all across America will be reading or adults will be reading to them.
The annual celebration is part of the Read Across America program which encourages children and adults to spend time reading, particularly reading aloud.
The Read Across America program is supported by Reach Out and Read, an evidence-based nonprofit that works with families of children from six months to five year years of age.
The program strives to prepare children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals.
During checkups, doctors encourage parents to read aloud to their children and then distribute free, developmentally and culturally appropriate books. Reach Out and Read places a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities.
Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Nicole Edwards, Family Health Care of Newberry now is participating in this program where children receive new children’s books at their well child checkups.
“I learned of the Reach Out and Read program during my residency and I loved the concept,” Edwards said.
As a young mother, she reads often with her 1-year-old son. As a doctor she said she knows how reading helps form synapses in the brain (connections between brain cells) and that the more synapses a child forms, the more intelligent that child can become.
Edwards said that children turning pages while adults read to them helps the children gain hand-eye coordination and helps with tactile development.
“Children receive books on their well visits and sometimes I have them read the books to me as a way to assess how they are developing. I also show mom and dad how to read with children, how to follow words with their fingers to show pre-readers the way a book ‘works’,” she said.
According to research done by Reach Out and Read, reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition. The program does more than impact an individual child, but she said the impact can be felt across the county.
“In this county in particular, illiteracy rates are still too high. It’s all the more important that we, in Newberry County, foster a love of reading.”
Edwards said all three providers at Family Health Care see pediatric patients so their office is a good fit for the Read Across America event that Reach Out and Read supports.
At Self Family Health Care of Newberry they are developing a reading corner in the waiting room with books children can read.
Edwards loves a variety of Children’s Literature but said her favorite book of all time is I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Her mother used to read that book to her when Edwards was a child and now she reads it to her son.
“It’s such a heartwarming book about how a mother always loves her child and at the end of life how the child takes the aged mother is his/her arms and says, ‘forever and always, my mother you’ll be….’ I just had a baby (within the last year) and I cry each time I read it,” she said.
Her office has books available in Spanish and English for children in the Read Out Loud program.
For more information see www.readoutloud.org.